Ethiopia

Postcard from Ethiopa

Celebration of the annual Ashenda festival has just finished in Ethiopia. It’s an Orthodox Christian tradition in the north of the country connected with Mary’s ascension. The festivities follow the end of Lent, ahead of the Ethiopian new year.

Women wear traditional clothing, braid their hair and sing and dance in the streets late into the night – without men. So the celebration has always been associated with a temporary increase in freedom for women.

This year Ashenda took place against a backdrop of a major political power shift in the country, away from the ethnic Tigrayan elite to a more centralised structure dominated by the other, larger groups.

Previously, the festival was widely seen as belonging predominantly to the Tigrayans, but this year’s celebration was bigger than usual and spread to several other regions, sparking lively debate, especially on social media. 

Some Tigrayans claim Ashenda belongs to them, and that the spreading of the celebrations is a thinly veiled attempt to erase the importance of their culture and history.

Many Ethiopians, however, see a more inclusive festival as a way of strengthening peace and community in a time of increasing ethnic and political tensions. People I met in the capital, Addis Ababa, viewed the festivities as a celebration of national diversity.

For example, 21-year-old Arsema Tsehaye took part for the first time and hopes that future Ashendas will be widely and proudly enjoyed: “I’m happy about the possibility of learning more about Ethiopian culture and making contact with people from different traditions.”

//Hiwot Abebe, Etiopien

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Postcard from Ethiopa

The Ethiopian government has introduced nationwide electricity restrictions because of the low water level in the lake formed by the huge Gibe III hydroelectric dam.

The Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity attributes the water shortage to unusually poor rainfall. Ethiopia is heavily dependent on hydroelectricity and barely invests in wind or solar power.

The power cuts represent a heavy blow to the economy. All factories except those producing cement have been instructed to reduce production in order to cut electricity demand. Electricity exports worth US$82 million a year have been jeopardised: supplies to Sudan have been put on hold and supplies to Djibouti halved.

The state electricity authority announced that the impact of power cuts are spread equally around the country, with each area suffering cuts of five hours a day. But some areas report that the power disappears for up to two days and then returns only sporadically for a few hours.

Blen Girma, who lives in the capital, Addis Ababa, tells me, “We haven’t had electricity for over twelve hours.” 

/Hiwot Abebe, Ethiopia

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.